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Researchers Unsure About Safety of E-Cigarettes

Researchers Unsure About Safety of E-CigarettesMany of the harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke are not present in e-cigarette vapor, and many believe that e-cigs are a safe alternative to regular cigarettes. But researchers are still unsure about their safety and long- term health risks.

Norris Cotton Cancer Center recently offered the following information based on what they do know about e-cigs and health.

E-cigarettes, e-Hookahs, and vaporizers are not regulated by any agency, so their safety and effectiveness has not been tested.

Therefore, it is difficult to say if they are safer than other tobacco products. This is one major reason why public health officials are reluctant to tell people to use them.

There are more than 400 types of e-cigarette products currently being sold in the U.S. The newer ones differ from the original versions in that they tend to allow nicotine to go deeper into the lungs with quicker absorption into the blood stream (similar to a regular cigarette).

This makes them more addictive than the earlier e-cig versions, but may also make them a better cigarette substitute (for those trying to quit).

When a user inhales an e-cigarette, a liquid nicotine solution is heated by a battery which then releases it as an inhalable vapor. There is little information about the safety of vapors, such as propylene glycol, when heated and directly inhaled, rather than eaten or put on the skin.

The safety of many of the inhaled flavorings in the e-cigarette liquid is also unknown, as heating these flavorings could create new chemicals and byproducts. There is also no information on how safe it is to breathe “secondhand vapor.”

Smokers thinking about using e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking must make a personal choice. No public health official is going to issue a statement endorsing e-cigarette use for stopping smoking in the near future. In theory, however, the exclusive use of e-cigarettes could be safer than smoking.

These theoretical benefits would be effective if a person who uses e-cigarettes completely quits smoking all products that burn tobacco — cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, and pipes. However, if a person uses e-cigarettes and continues to use those other products, it is unlikely to greatly lower their risk of heart attack, cancer, or chronic lung disease.

Source:  Norris Cotton Cancer Center

E-cigarettes photo by shutterstock.

Researchers Unsure About Safety of E-Cigarettes

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Researchers Unsure About Safety of E-Cigarettes. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 5 Apr 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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